It was dark and cold at midnight. Fires dotted the camps. And down by the lake, 87 bikers prepared for a very long night.
This was the start of the annual Fruita 18 Hour Bike Race. At 12:00 am Saturday morning, riders sprinted to their bikes and muscled each other out over the single track to be the first around Highline Lake. It’s two wheeled mayhem. By the third lap, the riders had distanced themselves from each other enough to create some welcome breathing room.
This year we had 4 teams racing. Tim and Geoff raced as duo Men – alternating each lap for 18 hours straight. Each lap was about 35-40 minutes so downtime was minimal. I was part of one of two ladies foursomes from Jackson. We had a much longer break. We each started with two laps during the night and then went to one each during the day. It never seemed like much of a rest, but we had far more than the guys. Our friends Derek and Lisa from Denver were racing Co-ed duo. They each raced 2 or 4 laps a piece before they kicked their feet up.
With so many strategies, you never knew who’d be in camp, but the constant coming and going of racers added a lot of excitement. It was a great time. Sarah, Geoff’s girlfriend, supported the guys while BJ, Barry and Sam aided the girls. Part of the guys support was performing duties in full costume. BJ wore his clown suit until he had to catch a flight early in the morning for Mexico. He passed the clown wig to Sam who complemented it with a full length gown for the duration of the race. We couldn’t have asked for a more spirited band of cheerleaders.
Round and round we all went with only one spill. It wasn’t until about 15 hours into the day that we suffered a serious casualty. As I was getting ready to ride, Marieka rode into the race gates. “Tim broke his bike!” she shouted.
Sam jumped into action. He grabbed his bike and rode it – fully gowned – to where Tim sat on the track. Tim then traded bikes, finished his lap and called it quits. A support on his aluminum frame had cracked completely in half. The Jamis had served him well for 5 years but had had enough.
He then joined the guys and cheered the ladies on for their last laps. Final standings ended up with Tim and Geoff at 9th of 15 (though they were 6th before the great bike breakage), Ladies finishing 3rd and 4th of 5 teams (we comfort ourselves knowing that 1 and 2 were both pro teams) and Derek & Lisa winning the Co-ed duo. We celebrated the victory with tequila, tacos and camp fires.
Next day, Tim and I were off to town to see what could be done with his bike, while everyone else did some riding. Good news from Jamis: they lifetime warranty their frames so now we wait for the new piece to arrive. Meanwhile Tim borrowed Derek’s 29er for the day and they pedaled up and down the Book Cliffs.
Now 2 days later all the riders and supporters have headed home. It’s back to Tim, Lisa R and me. We’ll stick around until BJ, Lisa’s boyfriend, flies back to Grand Junction from his 6 day bachelor party in Mexico. From there we’re westward bound. We’ll squeeze as much sunshine as we can out of the days until we head back to snowy JH in 3 weeks!